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In the Unlikely Event

Cover of In the Unlikely Event

In the Unlikely Event

In her highly anticipated new novel, Judy Blume, the New York Times # 1 best-selling author of Summer Sisters and of young adult classics such as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, creates a richly textured and moving story of three generations of families, friends and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by unexpected events.

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing "Unforgettable," Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.
In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume's unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.
Early reviewers have already weighed in: "Like many family stories, this one is not without its life-changing secrets and surprises. There is no surprise that the book is smoothly written, and its story compelling. The setting—the early 1950s—is especially well realized through period references and incidents." —Booklist (starred review) and "In Blume's latest adult novel . . . young and old alike must learn to come to terms with technological disaster and social change. Her novel is characteristically accessible, frequently charming and always deeply human." —Publishers Weekly


From the Hardcover edition.

In her highly anticipated new novel, Judy Blume, the New York Times # 1 best-selling author of Summer Sisters and of young adult classics such as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, creates a richly textured and moving story of three generations of families, friends and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by unexpected events.

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing "Unforgettable," Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.
In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume's unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.
Early reviewers have already weighed in: "Like many family stories, this one is not without its life-changing secrets and surprises. There is no surprise that the book is smoothly written, and its story compelling. The setting—the early 1950s—is especially well realized through period references and incidents." —Booklist (starred review) and "In Blume's latest adult novel . . . young and old alike must learn to come to terms with technological disaster and social change. Her novel is characteristically accessible, frequently charming and always deeply human." —Publishers Weekly


From the Hardcover edition.
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  • From the book

    Miri Miri was not happy when Rusty showed up at the Osners' party. And even less happy to see she was wearing her good black dress, her dress shoes and stockings with seams. Then there was the hair. Rita Hayworth hair. To her shoulders. Heads turned when Rusty came into the living room. She waved at Miri but Miri turned away. "What is my mother doing here?" she asked Natalie.

    "My mother wants to introduce her to Cousin Tewky from Birmingham."

    "Tewky? What kind of a name is Tewky?"

    "Some family nickname. He's my mother's first cousin, from the banking side of the family. You know, Purvis Brothers Bank."

    Miri didn't know.

    "My mother's from the department store side."

    Miri didn't know that, either. "You should have warned me," she told Natalie.

    "How was I supposed to know your mother didn't tell you she was coming?"

    Corinne greeted Rusty and led her straight to a man, a man who must have been Tewky Purvis, balding, not especially handsome, but not ugly, either, with a mustache. Well, half the men in the room had mustaches, including Dr. O. She couldn't hold that against him. They were talking now, her mother and Tewky Purvis, and laughing, maybe even flirting. Miri didn't like it. She didn't know how grown-ups judged each other, especially how women judged men. It never made sense to her. It's about character, Rusty once told her. Strength, goodness. A sense of humor doesn't hurt, either.

    She didn't ask how men judged women because she already knew. It was obvious, and Rusty looked glamorous tonight. "That's not all of it," Rusty had once argued. "But you're right--looks are certainly a starting point. Chemistry, too." Miri understood chemistry now. Chemistry turned your legs to jelly and made your insides roll over.

    If Mason hadn't had to work tonight Miri might not be at the Osners' party. She hoped she'd never have to choose between her best friend and the boy she loved. Since seventh grade, New Year's Eve had been for just the two of them, Natalie and Miri. She didn't think Natalie would have invited Mason. Maybe someday when Natalie was also in love, they'd invite dates to the Osners' party, but not now. Rusty must have thought that Miri would be out with Mason when she accepted Corinne's invitation. Now she'd have to deal with her daughter keeping an eye on her.

    Rusty
    She decided to go to the party at the last minute when Irene urged her to get out and enjoy herself. Seeing the worry on Miri's face now, she began to regret her decision. Maybe it had been a mistake to keep the men in her life a secret. Not that there had been many. But she'd never brought a date home. Not one man in fifteen years. She hadn't done a thing to get Miri used to the idea, to the possibility. In all these years, there had been just two serious boyfriends. One of them had been married. She certainly wasn't going to introduce him to her family. She knew from the start he would never leave his wife and children. She knew she wasn't his first affair. Yet she kept seeing him. For five years she saw him every week. If you asked her about him today she wouldn't be able to explain it. Just that she'd been young and she'd enjoyed the attention, the thrill, the sex.

    The second man was decent and available. He'd proposed after a few months, with a diamond as big as her thumbnail. For a minute she thought she could learn to love him, could be happy with his promise of a big house in the suburbs, a maid to clean and cook, summer camp for Miri. But when it came time to introduce him to the family she couldn't do it. They would see right through her. They would see the...

About the Author-
  • Judy Blume is one of America's most beloved authors. She grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and was a teenager in 1952 when the real events in this book took place. She has written books for all ages. Her twenty-eight previous titles include Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Forever; and Summer Sisters. Her books have sold more than eighty-five million copies in thirty-two languages. She is a champion of intellectual freedom, working with the National Coalition Against Censorship in support of writers, teachers, librarians, and students. In 2004, Blume was awarded the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She lives in Key West and New York City.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 2, 2015
    The three fatal plane crashes that hit Elizabeth, N.J., during the winter of 1951–52 are the inspiration for Elizabeth-native Blume's latest adult novel (the first since 1998's Summer Sisters), in which young and old alike must learn to come to terms with technological disaster and social change. The novel opens in 1987, when Miri Ammerman's return to Elizabeth for a commemorative ceremony brings back memories of the year she turned 15. In flashback, readers are brought back to the 1950s—Kate Smith, Lilly Dache, J.D. Salinger, Korea—from a variety of perspectives: Miri; her single mom; her supportive uncle; her wise grandmother; Miri's best friend, Natalie, daughter of a workaholic dentist and his shopaholic wife; Christina, a Greek girl secretly dating an Irish boy; passengers on the ill-fated planes. Miri's uncle earns recognition for reporting on the crashes in the local newspaper, but when Miri writes about the reactions at school she lands in the principal's office. Disaster produces other unexpected developments: Miri's boyfriend saves lives, while Natalie hears dead people. Maintaining her knack for personal detail, Blume mixes Miri's familiar coming-of-age melodrama with an exploration of how disasters test character, alter relationships, and reveal undercurrents of a seemingly simple world. She evokes '50s music, ethnic neighborhoods, and Las Vegas in the early days, while posing the question, how do individuals, families, and communities, deal with disaster? Her answer may not be entirely new, but her novel is characteristically accessible, frequently charming, and always deeply human. 350,000-copy first printing.

  • School Library Journal

    November 1, 2015

    In the winter of 1951-52, three separate airplanes crashed into Elizabeth, NJ, near Newark Airport. Blume was a young teen at the time, and she revisits the events of those months in her latest novel told in the third person from multiple points of view. The main character, 15-year-old Miri Ammerman, lives in Elizabeth with her single mother, Rusty. Miri's Uncle Henry is a small-town journalist who makes a name for himself writing about the crashes for the local paper. Miri's grandmother Irene keeps the family fed and befriends a man who was widowed in the first crash. These and other protagonists' viewpoints help to build a picture of life in New Jersey in the early 1950s. Although there are many voices, Blume skillfully weaves their stories together so that it is always clear who each character is and what their connections are to one another. Miri experiences first love (with a non-Jewish boy) and begins to learn the truth about her father and his family. Her best friend Natalie, whose family and life Miri has always envied, begins a downward spiral into anorexia and believes that she is hearing messages from a dancer named Ruby who died on the first plane. This is a wonderful picture of a community living their lives while responding to not just one catastrophe but three. VERDICT Fans of Blume will clamor for this, but so, too, will any teen who enjoys a well-written coming-of-age novel that strongly evokes a specific time and place.-Sarah Flowers, formerly of Santa Clara County (CA) Library

    Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Gayle Brandeis, The San Francisco Chronicle

    "In the Unlikely Event gives us everything that Blume is known (and beloved) for--the fierce, fraught nature of young relationships, the comfort and confines of cultural identity, the messiness and joys of the body--and takes it to a new level. This novel is her most ambitious to date, and she lives up to its reach with her characteristic frankness, compassion, and charm."

  • Caroline Leavitt, The New York Times Book Review "Judy Blume isn't just revered, she's revolutionary. . . . The novel moves with momentum, told in short chapter bursts, newspaper reports and even scripted dialogue. . . . Blume nails every 1950s detail, from the refinished basements with wet bars and knotty-pine walls to Elizabeth Taylor haircuts and mentions of Bogart and Bacall. . . . Blume, whose fiction for adults has the same emotional immediacy as her books for children, makes us feel the pure shock and wonder of living."
  • Sarah Larson, The New Yorker "An ambitious book that combines adult experience with the sweet familiarity of Blume's writing for and about younger people. . . . The novel rivals Tolstoy or Ferrante in its number of characters, families, and stories, and it feels not just believable but like a regular preteen-style Judy Blume page-turner, emotionally resonant and down-to-earth at once. . . . It's also the experience of being in Blume's authoritative hands, reading a dramatic story about daily life told in a funny, orderly, honest style. Blume is always kind to her readers; the suffering her characters experience feels real but never cruel, never melodramatic. . . . [Her books are] deftly crafted, and she's done the hard work for us. . . . Reading In the Unlikely Event is like reconnecting with a long-lost friend."
  • Kim Hubbard, People Magazine "Judy Blume is back--and on her game! . . . A deftly written story that captures a town coping with loss and the sudden fame that horrible tragedy brings. You won't want to turn the last page."
  • Meganne Fabrega, Minneapolis Star-Tribune "Will appeal to loyal fans as well as new readers. . . . In Miri, Blume deftly exposes the inner life of a teenager girl during the 1950s--and not the sanitized version so often portrayed. In the Unlikely Event integrates Blume's acclaimed observation of the teenage experience with intimate knowledge of an unusual series of events, making it a page-turner with cross-generational appeal."
  • Viv Groskop, The Guardian (U.K.) "Quite simply, extraordinary."
  • Emily Simon, Buffalo News "[In the Unlikely Event] does not disappoint. . . . Blume's great gift is [her] personal touch; her unflinching but reassuring voice--that of a no-nonsense big sister who gives it to you straight, then gives you a hug--characterizes her adult novels as distinctly as it does her YA output."
  • Amanda St. Amand, St. Louis Post-Dispatch "Blume creates characters who are real and sympathetic."
  • Melissa M. Firman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Satisfying, heartfelt. . . Delivers on the warm nostalgia that we remember from Blume's earlier books. . . It is her signature unparalleled ability to capture the innermost lives of teenagers that makes In the Unlikely Event vintage Judy Blume."
  • Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch "The details of the time and place ring true, and so do the feelings of the characters."
  • Aimee Levitt, Chicago Reader "Excellent and satisfying. . . Has all the elements of Blume's best books: the complex relationships between friends and family members, the straight talk and lack of shame about sex, and, most of all, the compassionate insight into the pleasures and pains of growing up."
  • Alexis Burling, The Oregonian "Vividly rendered. . . Blume deftly demonstrates just how different the personal fallout from tragedy can turn out to be. . . . As Blume proves over and over again not just in In the Unlikely Event but in all of her fiction, life does go on in spite of hardship. We love. We lose. We fail. We may fall. But the lucky ones, we try our best to endure."
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